How one major hospital is taking aim at the poor

I love it when healthcare corporations reveal themselves for what they truly are: money-making machines. Still, it’s infuriating to see how they put profits above the well-being of the American people — especially the most vulnerable ones.

Sadly, that’s what we’ve just seen once again, this time from Mayo Clinic’s famed CEO Dr. John Noseworthy. According to an article I just read, Noseworthy is taking aim at America’s poor all in the name of improving his corporation’s bottom line. And, naturally, blaming the Affordable Care Act for his greed.

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to get into a debate about the politics of healthcare. There’s enough of that going on in D.C. But I do have to share this story, because it so perfectly illustrates the state of medicine today.

It turns out that last year, Dr. Noseworthy told his staff to prioritize people with commercial insurance over those with public insurance. Even when they’re coming in for the same issue. In other words, he asked his staff to create a two-tiered system, providing one level of care for the “haves” and another for the “have-nots.”

Of course, once the statement came to light, Dr. Noseworthy and his team began backpedaling. They insist that no public insurance recipients are having their appointments bumped in favor of people with private insurance.

Fortunately, the state of Minnesota, where Mayo Clinic resides, isn’t buying it.

The Minnesota Department of Health wants clarity on exactly what Dr. Noseworthy meant when he directed employees to “prioritize” privately insured people. As they point out, delaying appointments is only one way to give subpar care. Even if Mayo promises equal access to appointments, that’s not the same as providing equal care.

According to Noseworthy, it’s all a numbers game. He claims that the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid eligibility and thus provided public insurance to 223,000 additional Minnesotans, is the reason he needs to “prioritize” the privately insured. Because without them, his company won’t succeed in its mission.

I would have thought Mayo Clinic’s mission would be to provide healthcare to anyone who comes to their door seeking help. But apparently it’s about generating revenue.

Perhaps Noseworthy look a little closer to home — like to his own salary — if he wants to trim some fat. A quick Google search reveals that he earned $2.34 million dollars in 2014. Which makes his claims about being dedicated to cutting costs for his company a little hard to swallow.

The fact that Noseworthy is a doctor makes this all the more appalling. I would expect a normal CEO to prioritize profits over patient welfare. But physicians are supposed to hold the well-being of patients paramount.

Money and healthcare are sensitive and nuanced subjects. But don’t forget that we had plenty of money to take care of people before Big Pharma started charging its exorbitant prices. And before health insurance company CEOs started making 40 million dollars per year and flying in private jets.

At some point we need to call our current healthcare crisis out for what it really is: a matter of greed.

I don’t want you to think I am picking on Noseworthy alone. I am sure he was the one who got caught saying out loud what every other healthcare executive says in private. They all want to increase their number of commercially insured patients. And a big part of the problem is that government reimbursement rates are stingy. But that’s a story for another day…

Once again, we come back to our simple rule of thumb for most things in America: Follow the money trail. Sad to know that this goes on in healthcare too. But it just goes to show you that a healthcare company is still a just company.